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U.S. Senate Introduces Multimodal Freight Act

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Published Jun 26, 2015 7:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

U.S. Senators Cantwell (D-WA), Booker (D-NJ), Murray (D-WA) and Markey (D-MA) introduced a proposal creating a national multimodal freight policy and investment program on Thursday. Much of the bill, the National Multimodal Freight Policy and Investment Act, was crafted based on recommendations developed by the nonpartisan National Freight Advisory Committee, a group organized by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and composed of public and private sector freight stakeholders.

The legislation contains many priorities held by the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC), including:

•    Investing a minimum of $2 billion annually in multimodal freight infrastructure, distributed through a competitive grant program with broad applicant and project eligibility;
•    Strengthening state-level multimodal freight planning that calls for both public and private sector involvement and input;
•    Creating a new office for multimodal freight within USDOT’s Office of the Secretary to administer the new freight mobility program and facilitate planning and permitting among various modal agencies;
•    Developing a multimodal freight network that recognizes goods do not move by highways alone; and
•    Establishing a multimodal freight policy that provides a comprehensive view of our multimodal transportation network and guides decision making. 

“Senators Cantwell, Booker, Murray and Markey developed a proposal that amplifies the effectiveness of existing transportation programs. The National Multimodal Freight Policy and Investment Act provides much-needed funding for our nation’s multimodal goods movement projects, which often go unaddressed because they are not recognized under current transportation planning and funding,” said Sharon Neely, CAGTC chairman and chief deputy executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments. 

“As freight volume grows, capacity across all modes will be stretched and it is vital to make multimodal improvements and enhancements so our nation remains globally competitive. These types of critical investments act as economic multipliers, supporting family-wage jobs, domestic manufacturing, and our regional and national economies,” she said.

Current freight policy is highway-specific and fails to recognize the many modes working together to move goods. Multimodal freight projects have difficulty securing federal resources due to their inability to qualify. CAGTC promotes a seamless multimodal goods movement network and since its establishment in 2001, has encouraged creation of a freight-specific federal grant program, such as the Freight Investment Grant Program within the National Multimodal Freight Policy and Investment Act, which awards funding to projects through the use of merit-based criteria. Freight projects are typically large-scale, frequently multimodal and cross jurisdictional borders, making them difficult to fund through traditional distribution methods such as formula programs.

Demonstrating the large number of projects that stand to benefit from a competitive grant approach, CAGTC published in April a booklet titled “Freight Can’t Wait.” The booklet contains a sampling of significant freight infrastructure projects that could be realized with federal resources, like funding distributed through the Freight Investment Grant Program within the National Multimodal Freight Policy and Investment Act.

“Without a strategic, multimodal freight program, America cannot unlock its economic competitiveness potential. While businesses and jobs rely on a seamless, efficient multimodal system, freight planning and funding in this country are simply insufficient to keep goods moving as our economy and population grow. CAGTC applauds Senators Cantwell, Booker, Murray, and Markey for proposing a solution – the National Multimodal Freight Policy and Investment Act – which creates a strong national multimodal freight policy and investment program based on the recommendations of the National Freight Advisory Committee,” said Elaine Nessle, CAGTC executive director. 

“Freight volumes are expected to increase 45 percent by 2045, meaning this country needs a program that accommodates growth, improves freight mobility, and supports national economic competitiveness. We commend the Senators for their leadership on this critical issue and look forward to working with them toward our shared goal of improving our multimodal goods movement network.”

The National Multimodal Freight Policy and Investment Act (S. 1680) provides multimodal freight infrastructure with a total of $12 billion over a six-year period. Funding for multimodal freight projects would be distributed based on a competitive, merit-based grant program administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation.